If the Shohei Ohtani free agency chase is a horse race, it seems like a pair of teams might've caught up to the Dodgers on the inside straight.
Though, if you've read the tea leaves, at least one of these clubs was lurking in the weeds all along. And their recent explosive run to the World Series won't hurt.
Alright, enough with the foreplay. It's the Texas Rangers and (shudder) San Francisco Giants, both of whom, according to Jon Heyman, have roughly equivalent chances to those of the Dodgers to sign Ohtani this winter. San Francisco's pursuit will be piloted by Farhan Zaidi, who just received an extension through 2026 after piloting a wonky offseason last year, if that's any comfort. The Rangers' chase will be led by Chris Young, who did a remarkable job of wooing Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi last offseason, Corey Seager the winter before, and Jordan Montgomery/Max Scherzer at the trade deadline (and Scherzer surely needed coercing).
Add in Ohtani's intimate familiarity with Texas' new ballpark, and it's no great shock that the AL's new darlings are squarely in the mix, pulling 6:1 odds (in Heyman's estimation) to land the slugging DH/starter.
Dodgers competition for Shohei Ohtani: Giants, Rangers
Ranking right behind the top trio are the New York Mets (of course) and the Boston Red Sox. It's, oddly, nice to see Boston in fifth, buoyed only by the New Balance connection in Heyman's column, after it felt they were gathering momentum earlier in the offseason. After either declining or receiving denials from a number of more experienced executives, Boston hired Cubs pitching guru and Theo Epstein protégé Craig Breslow to run their baseball operations. No one knows how his wind blows yet, or how ownership will direct him.
For now, we'll sweat and stress more over the Giants and Rangers, even though Ohtani is no longer quite as perfect a fit for the Dodgers in 2024 as he was four months ago. Even if Los Angeles inks a $500 million pact with the face of baseball, they'll still need to bring in two starters with world-class experience to fill 2024 rotation vacancies, especially after Clayton Kershaw ran out of steam this past fall and left his future up for grabs. Ohtani, Jordan Montgomery and Aaron Nola is one hell of a spending spree, but it's also wholly necessary if the Dodgers want to reach their considerable ceiling.
Or they could just watch Texas and San Francisco have all the fun instead.